Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand
Arriving in a storm on a boat from Phuket is almost the best way to land on this magical island. Sure, the usual bright sunshine bouncing off the diamond-white sand would look spectacular, too, but there’s something even more exciting and ethereal about arriving in the mist… all 56 villas are lightly obscured under the sea spray, and you can just make out their outlines – glorious boltholes hidden amongst the trees – dotted across the hillside.
Yao Noi is remarkably still untouched by nearby Phuket’s raucous party scene. This is the sort of island you’d expect from the ’80s; families at the market, miles of farmland and the occasional charming guesthouse or shack bar. Six Senses matches this ‘local’ feel perfectly. What other five-star hotel has a farm where you can pick your own eggs for breakfast (albeit delivered by pampered chickens – they’re played jazz music to relax them, naturally), its own reservoir and pays for English language teachers to be in local schools? But high-end is massively the name of the game here, too.
The sleekest of infinity pools lies at the Hilltop Reserve, revealing the most jaw-dropping view of the iconic limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay; giant, jagged boulders looking like chess pieces on the horizon. You can grab one of the coveted sunbeds with squishy yellow cushions, but it’s more fun to hop onto one of the elevated snuggle areas set back from the pool and people-watch. Oh, and tuck into the truffle Parmesan fries with bucket-loads of rosé…
Winning streak: Book a sunrise breakfast at the Hilltop Reserve – you get that pool and view all to yourselves until midday. The way the honey-hued, rose-pink sky lights up above the karsts is astonishing.
Go: The Luxury Holiday Company offers seven nights in a Hideaway Pool Villa from £2,225 per person, B&B, including flights with Singapore Airlines and transfers.
Ayala Land’s El Nido Resorts Lagen Island, Philippines
When it comes to paradise islands, you really can’t beat the Philippines. There are over 7,000 of them, for a start, and El Nido, in the province of Palawan, has 45 of the most idyllic and unspoilt – our favourite is Lagen. Dramatic limestone cliffs loom out of a turquoise sea fringed by white beaches, coral reefs and a lush forest teaming with exotic wildlife. You’ll meet monitor lizards, swiftlets, hornbills and mischievous macaque monkeys, and blink in disbelief each time you look at the breathtaking view of Bacuit Bay.
The setting is best described as the ultimate location for a Bond movie’s final romantic scene (and did feature in spy flick The Bourne Legacy – Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner both stayed here). Pictures of the sunsets certainly need #nofilter, and the water cottages on stilts, with their huge whitewashed balconies and pots of pink bougainvillea, are delightful. Candlelit dinners can be arranged on the jetty, in
the rainforest cathedral or on the private beach – where a speedboat zooms up to deliver your sizzling prawn starter.
Lagen is only accessible via a 45-minute boat journey from the mainland but, trust us, the more arduous the journey to paradise, the better it is when you get there.
Winning streak: The island-hopping tours included in your stay. Explore hidden caves and ‘snake’ island – an S-shaped sandbank exposed at low tide, with its own beach bar – kayak into a secret lagoon and go snorkelling while your guides feed the resident jackfish (the marine life is stunning).
Go: Turquoise offers seven nights in a Canopy Villa from £2,895 per person, B&B, including flights with Philippine Airlines and transfers.
St Regis Bora Bora, French Polynesia
You’ve seen the pictures of Bora Bora: outrageous Tiffany-blue seas and endless marshmallow-soft beaches plucked straight off a Bounty advert. Well, we are thrilled
to announce it actually exists. All of it. And as the region’s grande dame, the St Regis is simply Edenic. Its sprawling, Robinson Crusoe-esque over-water villas have ginormous bathrooms and private decks where rainbow-coloured parrotfish pootle beneath.
A protected lagoonarium is the spot to snorkel almost nose-to-fin with Napoleon fish, and the beach bar the best patch for just-shaken piña coladas. Gen up on what makes a top-notch pearl or try the gorgeous Clarins spa. Private butlers will whisk you back to your deck for sunset, when imposing Mount Otemanu rises in front of a shimmering apricot glaze. Oh, and food comes courtesy of superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten – here you’ll find the best damn octopus you’ll ever
eat. Heaven really is a place on Earth.
Winning streak: With a butler on hand to unpack – then repack – your bags, you get a sense of what aristocratic pampering feels like (clue: very nice indeed). They’re also brilliant at sourcing inflatable unicorns and tying them to your villa deck at a moment’s notice.
Go: Turquoise offers seven nights in a Reefside Garden Villa With Pool from £4,425 per person, B&B, including flights, speedboat transfers and a 45-minute couple’s massage
Bawah Reserve Anambas Islands, Indonesia
Bawah Reserve won’t remain under the radar for long. The fact that six islands, dotted amongst three lagoons (with no fewer than 13 beaches) have, up until now, never been touched is nothing short of a miracle. But eco warriors needn’t panic: the coolest, newest private island in South-East Asia is taking its arrival here very seriously. In fact, it’s the first resort in Indonesia to be powered by its own microgrid (glass is crushed, paper is composted, water is heated using solar energy…) and pretty much everything was hand built. Barely anything was disturbed, which is probably why the energy feels different here – laced with adventure as the breeze rustles the wild fig and pandan trees.
Bawah sits 160 miles from Singapore, allowing you to kick off your honeymoon with a stay at the Mandarin Oriental, where the city skyline stretches out before you as you relax in a billowing cabana beside the drop-dead-gorgeous pool. A private seaplane transports you to the six forested islands that make up the reserve, rimmed with aquamarine waters.
The 35 wooden villas (with huge copper baths and beds wrapped in muslin) sit amongst monitor lizards strolling along the sands and mynah birds screeching from the jungle. Dragon-fruit cocktails are on tap at the Jules Verne bar (made of old tree roots), while Treetops Restaurant, high up in the canopy, serves a sensational nasi goreng with sitting-on-the-edge-of-the-world views.
Winning streak: The feeling you get here – so-good-it-can’t-be-true butterflies.
Go: Turquoise offers one night at the Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, and six nights in a Garden Suite at Bawah Reserve from £3,295 per person, B&B, including flights, transfers and all meals.
LUX* Grand Gaube Mauritius
Set across two palm-fringed crescent bays on the north-east tip of Mauritius, this recently renovated property by hip hotel brand LUX* is one groovy cat. From the minute you walk down the bold monochrome steps (painted by cool London-based artist Camille Walala, known for her vibrant, graphic murals) onto the sand, it’s hard to tear your eyes from the sea-melding-into-sky views. They’re even sweeter from the romantic, Kelly Hoppen-designed junior suites, which sit in low-slung semi-circles hugging the honey-hued bays. Each suite has an oak four-poster and verandahs with ocean glimpses, plus an al-fresco Jacuzzi (hello there, sunset soaks). Sure, you can spend your time splashing about for hours in kayaks and catamarans on the water, but LUX* is also ideal for couples who just want to chill.
Get glossed with his ’n’ hers pampering at the Murdock London barbershop and Essie nail parlour, or hole up on a comfy double day bed by the adults-only pool. There are oodles of eating options: calamari and prawn curry under the shade of a banyan tree at the Creole Smokehouse, Turkish mezze at Bodrum Blue or lantern-lit Wagyu beef dinners for two on a floating dock. Don’t miss The G&T 100 Club for pre-dinner tipples or The Palm Court bar, where live bands play Creole-influenced beats at night. This is the ideal fly-and-flop, with fun guaranteed.
Winning streak: Fancy re-living your big day with a private screening
of your wedding video? Enjoy an outdoor ‘Cinema Paradiso’ evening with popcorn and Old Fashioneds from The Rum Treehouse.
Go: A Superior Room costs from £225 per night, B&B; luxresorts.com
Jumby Bay Island Antigua, Caribbean
If you think a tropical private island is all about flashy, OTT luxury then think again. At Jumby Bay, just a hop, skip and a jump (OK, OK, a zippy boat ride) off the coast of Antigua, serene rules supreme.
No crowds, no cars and 300 acres of lush landscape – all towering palms and delicate whipped-cream-white sand waiting to be explored – plus the sense, from the get-go, that you’re going to be beautifully looked after. The octagon-shaped Rondavel Rooms are cute as a button, but our picks are the Pool Suites, which feel like mini houses with dark, intricately carved furnishings and swathes of cream cotton creating a mellow mood.
Despite the ‘do not disturb’ vibe, staff will magically appear poolside proffering iced coffee, chilled towels and slices of coconut cake. Still peckish? The Beach Shack and The Pool Grille excel at seafood; nibble on lemongrass shrimp salad or slurp on whitefish chowder. Unmissable activities include warm basalt-stone massages in the spa and snorkelling trips to Bird Island. One morning, wake up early and cycle to Pasture Bay for sunrise – you’ll have its sugar-white sands all to yourselves.
Winning streak: Jumby Bay has just been taken over by the Oetker Collection. Their masterpiece hotels, including Eden Rock, St Barths, and
The Lanesborough, London, set the standard in luxury, meaning you can expect a stay to be even more on point.
Go: Turquoise offers seven nights in a Rondavel Room from £4,120 per person, all inclusive, including flights and private transfers.
Calala Island Nicaragua
Even the name of this pocket-sized tropical island off Nicaragua’s unspoilt Caribbean coast screams honeymoon (calala means passionfruit), and this is somewhere you’ll fall for as hard as you have for each other. Getting there on a bouncy-but-breathtaking boat journey from coastal city Bluefields in Nicaragua – past fishing villages and Pearl Lagoon, out into the open sea – is an experience in itself (or splurge on an 80-minute helicopter flight from Managua direct to Calala for astonishing views of Lake Nicaragua).
Just four shaggy-roofed suites sit on powder-soft white sand a pebble’s throw from ultramarine water. Rooms have a whimsical feel, furniture (like the suites) is handcrafted from sustainable hardwoods, king-sized beds are clad in crisp white linens, floor-to-ceiling windows are lined with filmy curtains, and lamps inspired by lobster pots add quirk. Showers can be taken under the sun or stars, and whether you’re lounging by the palm-fringed pool or relaxing in the spa palapa in the mangroves, this remote haven feels like it’s your own. Lunch can be an adventure: paddleboard or kayak across
to shell-strewn sandbar Little Calala for a picnic, or try local-style fishing – using a piece of string. Any catch can be cooked by chef Lorne Emerson (from the three-Michelin-starred Le Pré Catelan in Paris); perhaps lobster carpaccio or jackfish tartare? Dine in the open-sided restaurant, at the pool bar or opt for barbecued ribs on the beach, toasted with Appletinis – the whole place is your (rather perfect) playground.
Winning streak: You can actually book the entire shebang – bring your closest pals for the ultimate private-island buddymoon.
Go: Journey Latin America offers three nights in a Junior Suite from £2,982 per person, all inclusive, including international flights with American Airlines and domestic flights.
Four Seasons Langkawi, Malaysia
When you think beach huts, you might not immediately think five-star luxury. But Four Seasons’ take on the humble beach hut equals artfully designed pavilions that fuse Moorish and Malay architecture. Just shy of 100 rooms are sprinkled along peaceful Tanjung Rhu beach, which stretches like a billowing silk scarf for a mile, kissing the Andaman Sea. Designed by Bill Bensley, they feature super-high ceilings, exposed beams, floor-to-ceiling windows and oversized terrazzo bathtubs tucked in cute nooks. Outside, hornbills crash into the canopy and inquisitive dusky leaf monkeys swing through the trees.
Be warned, it might not always be just the two of you in your private plunge pool, as these cheeky primates sometimes fancy cool-down dips, too. Wannabe David Attenboroughs should visit nearby Kilim Geoforest Park to see eagles soaring above dramatic limestone karsts. Come suppertime at Ikan-Ikan, feast on traditional Malay spreads of chicken satay, grilled calamari and mango salad rounded off with marshmallows toasted over firepits on the beach. Be sure to gaze out to sea; the glinting green lights of bobbing fishing boats in the distance are magical.
Winning streak: Langkawi is one of only four inhabited islands in an archipelago of 99… it’s the location that really makes this hotel a winner.
Go: Turquoise offers seven nights in a Garden View Ground Floor Pavilion from £2,135 per person, B&B, including flights with British Airways, transfers and a couple’s spa treatment.
Petit St Vincent Private Island Resort St Vincent & The Grenadines, Caribbean
‘Go where the wi-fi is weak,’ is the travel mantra of the moment. It's easy to embrace this mantra at this private island in the glorious Grenadines. Communication with staff is pirate-style via a driftwood flagpole – raise pillar-box red for ‘do not disturb’ and sunshine yellow for ‘butler service, please’. Being disconnected doesn’t mean doing without, though. For every guest at PSV, as it’s affectionately known, there are three staff who zip around on cute Mini Moke vehicles attending to your every whim. Twenty-two cottages and two villas line the beachfront, perfectly positioned for the pomegranate-pink sunsets and sea views.
Enjoy classic Caribbean fare at the Beach Restaurant (conch or mahi mahi harvested from the shallows that day); pick a terrace table at night and see the twinkling lights of islands in the distance. PSV is a wine buff’s dream – there are over 4,500 fine vintages lining the curved walls of the wine cellar. Prefer cocktails? Try a signature Goatie’s Hammer rum punch, said to be the best in the Grenadines. It’s named after resort legend Noel Victory, aka Goatie, who worked here for over 50 years and is the person to regale you with island tales. And for the ultimate switch-off, there’s a dinky hilltop spa.
Winning streak: The day trip to the Tobago Cays on PSV’s sailing boat. Set-jetters will love dramatic Wallilabou Bay, seen in Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Snorkelling in the nearby marine park is like peering into an underwater treasure chest.
Go: Elegant Resorts offers seven nights in a One Bedroom Cottage from £3,725 per person, full board, including British Airways flights and boat transfers.
Sundy Praia, Príncipe Island São Tomé and Príncipe, Africa
Well-travelled couples face a dilemma. Where to honeymoon that’s undiscovered? Enter Príncipe Island in Africa’s São Tomé and Príncipe: just 7,000 people live on
this speck-in-the-ocean wilderness off the coast of Gabon.
Getting here is an adventure; fly to Lisbon, on to São Tomé, then it’s a plane hop to Príncipe. Carpeted in skyscraper-tall oca trees, with jutting basalt mountains and sprawling cacao plantations, this ancient volcanic island is Jurassic Park meets Avatar: muddy red roads whorl through the forest, as frilly winged butterflies and kingfishers fly above. And just-opened Sundy Praia’s 15 gorgeous tented villas are right in the thick of it. These huge, romantic rooms with bold rugs and zig-zag ceiling decorations against oatmeal-hued furnishings and hardwood floors are moments from a rugged, sunset-
yellow beach. Dip in the ocean here or laze by the pool, ylang-ylang Martini in hand. At the thatched restaurant, nab the curtained-off corner table then enjoy sensational forest-to-table food – think green bean tempura with yoghurt, and wild rice risotto. Wolf down cacao-sprinkled desserts, then get a choco-chiromassage atop a banana-leaf bed in the spa. Given that the whole island is a biosphere reserve, trekking is sensational, as are the deserted beaches, where turtles nest. Small island, big soul. Now you have
a new dilemma: gush about how glorious it is? Or keep it all to yourselves?
Winning streak: Sundy Praia plays an important part in the local community. Visit eco-entrepreneur Bella’s recycled-glass bead studio and Zinha restaurant for more charm.
Go: A one-bedroom villa costs from £810 per night, half board; sundyprincipe.com. TAP Air Portugal offers return flights from London to São Tomé, via Lisbon, from approx £650. Return Air charters between São Tomé and Príncipe are £150.